The E-4B “Nightwatch” plane, which would allow the president to give military orders in the event of a nuclear war and has served as a mobile Pentagon for defense secretaries, is worn out, Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reports.
The so-called Doomsday plane — which is the Air Force’s four E-4Bs and the Navy’s E-6B “Mercury” — has been in service since the 1970s, much like Air Force One, and is expected to keep flying through the 2020s. But to preserve the planes, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has had to use other military aircraft when traveling, including a C-17 Globemaster and a C-32 airliner, both smaller than the E-4B.
“A number of aircraft are in a maintenance status to ensure they remain flyable for this no-fail mission for the next decade,” Lt. Col. David Faggard, an Air Force spokesman, told Defense One.
“Upgrades and maintenance include avionics, wiring, communication equipment, and other components to ensure the platform remains viable in a modern world,” Faggard said.
The E-4B dates to the 1970s, but it needs to have advanced technology to carry out its most important mission — directing US forces in a nuclear war.
(US Department of Defense)
The distinctive hump behind the cockpit of the aircraft holds satellite antennae, and the plane’s advanced electronics allows the president to order nuclear missile launches from assets on land, in the air, and at sea. It also has no windows except the ones at the cockpit.
The Air Force would not say exactly how many of the aircraft were in for repairs and upgrades, but the number of issues that the E-4B and its Navy counterpart, the E-6B, have faced recently are worrisome.
As Defense One reports, it’s sometimes difficult to obtain parts for the aircraft because they’re so old. And in 2011, an E-4B carrying then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates broke down on the runway in Belgium.
Just weeks ago, one of the Navy’s E-6B Mercury planes was grounded after it hit a bird, causing at least million in damages. In March 2019, another E-6B made an emergency landing in Oklahoma after a fire broke out on board.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Military doctrine identifies five domains of warfare — land, sea, air, space, and information. While borders and barriers define the four natural domains, the fifth dimension, with the advancements of artificial intelligence, is rapidly expanding with the potential to destabilize free and open international order.
Nations like China and Russia are making significant investments in AI for military purposes, potentially threatening world norms and human rights.
This year the Defense Department, in support of the National Defense Strategy, launched its Artificial Intelligence Strategy in concert with the White House executive order creating the American Artificial Intelligence Strategy.
The DoD AI strategy states the U.S., together with its allies and partners, must adopt AI to maintain its strategic position, prevail on future battlefields and safeguard order.
“The (executive order) is paramount for our country to remain a leader in AI, and it will not only increase the prosperity of our nation but also enhance our national security,” said Dana Deasy, DoD chief information officer.
Deasy also launched the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center in February 2019 to transform the DoD by accelerating the delivery and adoption of AI to achieve mission impact at scale. The goal is to use AI to solve large and complex problem sets that span multiple services; then, ensure the services and components have real-time access to ever-improving libraries of data sets and tools.
Col. Jason M. Brown is the Air Force Lead at the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center believes developing robust artificial intelligence capability is necessary to stay inside a potential adversaries decision making loop.
“The United States needs to drive the development of AI otherwise our adversaries will and we can’t rely that certain adversaries or rivals out there won’t develop AI that meets our standards when it comes to ethics, safety and surety,” said Col. Jason M. Brown, the Air Force lead for the JAIC.
For the DoD that also means working hand in hand with partners and industry leaders in technology and innovation to get smarter, faster.
At the 2019 Air Warfare Symposium, Mark Cuban, renowned entrepreneur and investor, spoke about the world industry competition in AI.
“It’s scary,” Cuban said. “AI is not just important — it’s everything. That’s how the battles (of the future) will be fought.”
Cuban explained China has a huge advantage because they are doing things the U.S. won’t and they have made AI a national focus over the last couple of years.
Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Stephen Wilson discusses the need for developing artificial intelligence capabilities with Mark Cuban at the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando. Fla. in Feb. 2019.
(U.S. Air Force)
“In order to do AI it’s not just about capturing data, which is important, it’s not about algorithms and research into AI; it’s how fast can you process,” Cuban said. “If there’s somebody that has a (fabrication facility) in China that’s building more advanced processors that’s just as important as keeping track of warheads.”
Brown believes AI deterrence will soon be on par with the mission of nuclear deterrence.
“If our adversaries see us moving at a speed and scale because it’s enabled by AI, that will clearly get their attention,” Brown said. “I’d much rather be in the driver seat as we develop these capabilities than to play catch up.”
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Lance corporal is the most common rank in the Marine Corps. It’s the upper-most junior-enlisted Marine; the last step before becoming an NCO. It’s at this rank that you truly learn the responsibilities that come with being an NCO — and it’s when you start to shoulder those responsibilities. But Marines can be lance corporals straight out of boot camp. But how can someone with no experience possibly be ready to lead others Marines? This is why we created an unofficial rank — “senior lance corporal.”
Lifers everywhere will tell you that there’s no such thing. They’ll say something along the lines of, “being a senior was a high school thing and it ought to remain there.” But the truth is that there are very valid reasons for the distinctive title.
No matter your reason for stating otherwise, one thing’s for sure: senior lance corporals exist. This is why.
This Lance Corporal still has a lot to learn.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Catie Massey)
The “junior” lance corporal
The “junior” lance corporal is the guy who picked up rank during boot camp because they were an Eagle Scout or some sh*t. Regardless, they didn’t earn real Marine Corps experience while waiting for that rank. Hell, the only experience they have in the Marine Corps is with marching — which is important, sure, but there’s a lot more to being a Marine than marching.
There are exceptions, of course. You could have spent time in the service prior to deciding that whatever branch you were in was a group of weaklings compared to the Marines. In that case, you do have experience, but this is pretty rare. The majority of “junior” lance corporals haven’t led Marines yet — not really, anyway — nor have they been to any leadership courses.
They spent a lot of time doing things by the book, which isn’t typically how things go in a real unit.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
They spent their time learning the basics which, if we’re being honest, are great building blocks, but your unit’s standard operating procedure may render a lot of what you learned basically useless.
Anyone who’s reached NCO before their first term and has led Marines knows that you can’t trust a junior lance corporal to clean their room the right way on their first attempt. How could that lance corporal possibly be the same as the one who went through leadership and/or advanced schools and has a deployment under their belt? Hint: It’s not.
Enter the “senior” lance corporal.
These guys have been around a minute.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
The “senior” lance corporal
When a junior Marine gets to their unit, even if they’re a lance corporal, this is the guy they refer to as “lance corporal.” The junior will quickly come to understand that, while they may hold the same rank, they are not the same. The difference, in fact, is rather large.
A senior lance corporal has been on a deployment. Regardless of whether that deployment was into combat or not, that lance corporal has real leadership experience. They went to a foreign country and they were responsible for leading Marines to success. Then, before you got to the unit, they went to leadership schools. These Marines have a lot more experience than a greenhorn fresh out of boot camp.
So ask yourself, are you treating your Marines a certain way based on experience — or rank?
(U.S. Marine Corps photo Cpl. Aaron Patterson)
Realistically, there are plenty of senior lance corporals that don’t give a f*ck anymore. But for every one of those, there are ten who strive to be good Marines and great leaders. To diminish their hard work and reduce them to the same level as some fresh boot does nothing but destroy their spirit.
The fact is, a “senior” lance corporal could be a squad leader — a job that is meant to be held by a sergeant, but is more commonly held by a corporal. You could not take a “junior” lance corporal and say the same. The difference is clear.
When one thinks of German armored vehicles, massive tanks, like the Tiger and Tiger II, from World War II spring to mind. So does the Leopard 2, considered one of the best modern tanks in the world. But while Germany has developed some huge, armored powerhouses, it’s also developed a pint-sized vehicle that packs some serious firepower.
In the 1970s, the West Germans realized that their regular infantry didn’t stand much of a chance against hordes of tanks that the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact would deploy should World War III break out. To answer to this concern was the Rheinmetall Wiesel, a very capable, air-mobile armored vehicle.
The Wiesel weighs in at 9,557 pounds. To put that into perspective, the M1114 Up-Armored HMMWV comes in at 12,101 pounds. The Wiesel, however, is no slouch in a fight. Depending on the version, it can carry the BGM-71 TOW missile or a 20mm autocannon.
The Wiesel also made for a natural reconnaissance vehicle. The Wiesel 1 was ordered in 1985, entered service in 1989, and 343 examples were purchased by the Bundeswehr. However, a larger version, the Wiesel 2, was designed and entered service in 1994. The Bundeswehr ordered 179 of those vehicles, which serve as ambulances, command-and-control vehicles, mortar carriers, and air-defense assets.
The Wiesel, though, hasn’t gotten a lot of export orders. The United States did acquire a few to test as unmanned vehicles but, to date, the only troops using the Wiesel have been Germans. The Wiesel has seen service in Operation Enduring Freedom and in peacekeeping missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Somalia.
Learn more about this pint-sized tankette that packs a big-time punch in the video below.
The Army National Guard is using new Hollywood special effects to transform Humvees into T-72 tanks and other Russian combat vehicles to amp up the realism in training exercises.
In 2018, the National Guard Bureau hired WestEfx Military Services in Sun Valley, California, to help improve its Exportable Combat Training Capability program and its 21-day exercises designed to ensure units are ready for mobilization, according to an Army news release.
WestEfx has provided special effects for big-screen movies such as “Taken” and “Men in Black II,” it added.
The firm’s special VisMod kits convert M1097 Humvees into realistic mock-ups of Russian T-72 main battle tanks and BTR-90 personnel carriers.
Military engineers and mechanics have helped WestEfx install 12 kits onto Humvees at the Idaho Army National Guard’s Orchard Combat Training Center, according to the release. The Guard and WestEfx plan to continue production of 48 more kits over the next three years, it adds.
The upgraded T-72A which appeared in 1979.
“We will be able to train against a realistic enemy,” Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Doramus, Idaho Army National Guard VisMod fleet manager, said in the release. “These kits aren’t going to look and act like a Humvee. They are going to look and act like T-72s and BTR-90s.”
The kits weigh about 1,700 pounds and fit over a Humvee’s chassis to resemble the size and silhouette of the tank or personnel carrier, but use an inflatable canvas-like frame.
Its gas-operated weapon systems simulate the firing of .50-caliber and 125 mm main guns that can be configured to multiple integrated laser engagement systems (MILES) for added realism, according to the release.
“No enhanced battlefield training simulators can compare with the functionality, realism, durability and cost-effectiveness of this new VisMod vehicle,” WestEfx owner and lead designer Erick Brennan said in the release. “They are pretty amazing, and we are really proud of them.”
Army brigade combat teams have used similar technology over the years to replicate enemy vehicles, but these new kits are the “first of their kind,” Maj. Aaron Ammerman, XCTC program manager for the Guard Bureau, said in the release.
“Taking a look at how VisMods are done across the Army, I think these are the best I’ve ever seen,” he said. “They will provide an exponentially more realistic threat signature for troops to train against as they do force-on-force exercises.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Mary Walker, the only woman to be issued a Medal of Honor, is about to get some prime-time coverage, thanks in part to a graphic novel series produced by the Association of the U.S. Army. The latest edition of “Medal of Honor,” shines a light on the bravery and valor of Mary Walker, the first woman in the U.S. to earn a medical degree and the only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor.
Dr. Mary Walker attended Syracuse Medical College before the start of the Civil War. Her parents encouraged her to pursue her education, and she graduated in 1855 with a medical doctor degree – the first woman to do so in the almost 100-year-old United States.
She knew she wanted to serve her country, she just didn’t know how it would happen. Dr. Walker worked in private practice for a few years until the Civil War broke out in 1861. Despite her best efforts to join the Army, she was denied on the grounds of being a woman. And since she’d worked so hard to earn a medical doctorate, Dr. Walker was nonplussed at the suggestion that she join the Army as a nurse.
Instead, she decided to volunteer and work for free at a temporary hospital set up at the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C. There, Dr. Walker continued to face discrimination, as the male surgeons refused to address her as “Dr.” and instead regulated her duties to that of an assistant.
By 1862, Dr. Walker was living in Virginia and working at field hospitals throughout the state. A year later, her medical credentials were finally accepted by the Army. This was only because of the recommendation of Maj. Gen. William Sherman and Maj. Gen. George Thomas. Without their letters of recommendation, it’s likely that Dr. Walker would have continued to work as an unpaid surgical assistant, despite being a highly trained doctor.
With her recommendation letters in hand in hand, Walker moved to Tennessee and was appointed as a War Department surgeon, which is equivalent to today’s rank of either a First Lieutenant or Captain. Her position in Tennessee was paid.
Dr. Walker quickly became well-known among the troops and units. She would routinely risk crossing enemy lines to tend to wounded personnel or civilians. It was during one of these forays into enemy territory that Dr. Walker was captured by Confederate forces. Dr. Walker was sent to the infamous Castle Thunder Camp, located in current-day Richmond, Virginia. She was held as a POW for about four months and was eventually exchanged in a POW swap for Confederate medical officers.
Castle Thunder was mainly used for civilian prisoners, not POWs, so it’s not entirely clear what Dr. Walker witnessed and experienced during her time as a POW, but it probably wasn’t pleasant. But, true to her nature, Dr. Walker saw an opportunity instead of internment. While imprisoned, she cared for the ill and the wounded at Castle Thunder. She is credited with having saved several lives while waiting for her own life to resume outside the prison walls.
After being released by the Confederate Army, Dr. Walker worked as a medical director at a hospital for women prisoners in Kentucky. She was routinely seen wearing men’s clothes and was arrested several times for impersonating a man, always stating that the “government” gave her permission to dress that way. She was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Andrew Johnson even though she’d never officially been commissioned as an officer. That’s why her medal was rescinded in 1917, just two years before she died. Dr. Walker refused to return the medal and wore it until she died.
Due in part to the efforts of her family, President Jimmy Carter restored her Medal of Honor in 1977. As part of the Army’s efforts to bring to light the courageous acts of service personnel, Dr. Walker’s story is now available in graphic novel form. Her story is the third installment of 2020. A final issue for 2020 will feature Holocaust survivor and Korean War veteran Cpl. Tibor Rubin. Read Dr. Walker’s graphic novel here.
The story of the M1014 is fascinating. The Marine Corps rarely gets to be the lead on a joint service project. The small size and limited resources of the Marine Corps often make them second to the Army when it comes to searching out new small arms. However, in 1998 the USMC got their opportunity, and as the Marine Corps tends to do, they charged forward, ready to deliver the best possible option.
The U.S. Army Armaments Research, Developments, and Engineering Center, aka ARDEC, put out the solicitation for a new semi-automatic combat shotgun. The Marine Corps was tapped to lead the project and quickly developed a set of requirements. Benelli, an Italian shotgun firm well known for its shotguns, submitted their newly developed M4 shotgun.
The USMC put the gun through the wringer, and the M4 proved successful. The M1014 killed it and won the competition. Subsequently, the Marines order 20,000 of them.
Enter The M1014
The Benelli M4 became the M1014 Joint Service Shotgun. Shotguns in the military were traditionally manually operated designs. With these other shotguns, troops have to manually operate a pump-action between shots. The Benelli M1014 changed the game by being a semi-auto design.
Like the rifles issued to troops, the weapon fired once per trigger pull and did not require a manual action between shots. The M1014 did not fully replace pump-action shotguns in military inventories but augmented it. A pump-action shotgun can handle less-lethal loads due to the manual operation. These less lethal shells are not powerful enough to cycle the semi-automatic M1014.
The M1014 is a pure combat shotgun designed for fighting in close quarter’s situations. Benelli built the M1014 from the ground up to meet the Marine Corps requirements. Marines wanted a shotgun that could reliably function and work with various optics and attachments. Benelli’s previous shotguns, the M1, M2, and M3, were inertia-operated.
Inertia-based guns are fascinating and are very capable weapons. Inertia-based guns fail when users start adding weight in the form of optics, accessories, and so forth and so on. Gas-based guns, like the M1014, are not affected by the addition of weight.
Gas-based shotguns existed before the M1014, but and Benelli did things differently. Benelli invented the ARGO gas system for the M4 series guns. ARGO stands for auto regulating gas system. As the name implies, the ARGO system automatically adjusts to varying power levels and lengths.
Gas drives two stainless steel pistons to operate the action. These pistons drive the bolt rearward and eject the fired shell, cock the hammer, and loads the next round.
Trial By Fire
The M1014 hit the fleet in 1999, and two short years later, the Global War on Terror kicked off. Marines deployed with a wide variety of weapons, and the M1014 was one of them. Pictures from the GWOT started showing the M1014 in action. Shotguns rule close-range fighting, so they are somewhat niche.
Troops often carry a rifle and shotgun, something I did when issued a Mossberg 590A1. In the Battle of Fallujah, shotguns cleared rooms, breached doors, and worked checkpoints.
The United States isn’t the only user of the M4 shotgun. The SAS also issue the weapon, and famously the gun eliminated five ISIS insurgents in mere seconds. The SAS partnered with MI6, and Iraqi Special Operation pulled off an early morning raid on a bomb-making factory. The pointman entered and quickly took down five armed insurgents.
Shotguns in close quarters absolutely dominate. Semi-automatic shotguns dominate close-quarters combat, and while that role is small, it’s important. The Benelli design has proven to be extremely popular and more than capable in that role.
How It Handles
As a Marine, I only handled the M1014 as a familiarization exercise. The Corps gave me a Mossberg 590A1, and the M1014 was a pipe dream. However, I’m a free man and a gun nerd, so I did the American thing and purchased one.
You can read all about a piece of gear, but until you experience it’s tough to grasp. That’s especially true with the Benelli M4/M1014. Once you handle the gun you know why the USMC chose it.
Firing a shotgun means getting a beating most of the time. However, the gas-operated design reduces recoil significantly. Firing accurate and fast follow-up shots is boringly simple. That’s critical for close quarter’s battle scenarios that rely on speed and decisive action.
The ARGO system allows for reliable operation that’s not ammo picky and does require constant cleaning. It can take a real beating and not be fouled by dust, carbon, and whatever else the world throws at it. Semi-auto shotguns are ammo picky and often unreliable in harsh conditions. The M1014 changed that perception and became the king of combat shotguns.
The M1014 has been successful now for more than two decades. Deployment of the M1014 is rare, but when it’s needed, there is no better option. The Marines do most things well, and the M1014 exemplifies that.
Tim Draper is known for having crazy ideas — and for funding them.
Now, the legendary Silicon Valley investor is making headway on a longtime and perhaps unrealistic effort to split California into three states: Northern California, California, and Southern California.
Draper’s proposal to cut up the Golden State qualified on June 16, 2018, to appear on the ballot in November 2018’s general election. It received more than 402,468 valid signatures, more than the number required by state law, thanks to an ambitious campaign called Cal 3 and financial backing from Draper, an early investor in Tesla, Skype, and Hotmail.
If a majority of California voters who cast ballots agree to divide the state into three, the plan would need approval from both houses of the California Legislature. Then it would reach the US Congress.
The last time an existing state split up, it was the 1860s and a civil war broke out. West Virginia was formed by seceding from a Confederate state over differences in support for slavery.
Draper has reasons for wanting to slice and dice his home state.
With slightly more than 39 million people, California is the most populous US state. Supporters of the initiative argue that it isn’t fairly represented with two senators in Washington. The proposal would give the people of California six senators.
According to the Cal 3 website, partitioning the state would also allow legislatures to make better and more sensible decisions for their communities.
“The California state government isn’t too big to fail, because it is already failing its citizens in so many crucial ways,” Peggy Grande, a representative for the Cal 3 campaign, said in a June 16, 2018 statement. “The reality is that for an overmatched, overstretched, and overwrought state-government structure, it is too big to succeed. Californians deserve a better future.”
However, the proposal is as radical as it is unlikely to pass.
Critics of the initiative say that having three Californias would diminish the power of Democrats. With its 55 electors in the Electoral College, California has long been a stronghold for the Democratic Party. Three smaller states could change that equation, which worries some Democrats.
Under the proposal, each state would have about one-third of California’s population:
California: This would include six counties: Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, and San Benito.
Southern California: This would have 12 counties: San Diego, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, Mono, Madera, Inyo, Tulare, Fresno, Kings, Kern, and Imperial.
Northern California: This would make up 40 counties including those of the San Francisco Bay Area and those north of Sacramento, the state capital.
This is the third time Draper has tried to get voters to weigh in on breaking up the most populous US state. He backed proposals in 2012 and 2014 to create six California states, but both initiatives fell short of gathering enough valid signatures.
Sergeant Fritz Niland had more to do with Band of Brothers than Saving Private Ryan – save for being the inspiration for the movie’s central plot. Historian Steven Ambrose even wrote about Niland in his book, “Band of Brothers – E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.” Niland, like the fictional Ryan, lost three brothers in combat, and found out about them all in the same day.
Sadly, his mother did too.
From left to right, the Niland Brothers, Edward, Preston, Robert, and Fritz.
No one had to go searching for Sgt. Niland. He didn’t need to be saved. Niland went looking for his brothers after D-Day, while assigned to the 101st Airborne Division in Europe. His brother Bob was in the 82d Airborne, also fighting in Europe. While looking for his brother Bob, he discovered Bob was killed on D-Day. According to Ambrose, Bob Niland’s platoon was surrounded, so Bob manned a machine gun to harass the Germans so his unit could break through. They did, and Bob went through three boxes of ammo before he was killed in action. Fritz then went searching for another brother, Preston.
Preston Niland was a second lieutenant and platoon leader in the 4th Infantry Division. He too landed on D-Day, but with his men at Utah Beach. Fritz discovered that Preston Niland was killed in action on D+1 at Normandy’s Crisbecq Battery. Fritz returned to the 506th with the heartbreaking news. The news got worse from there.
Frederick “Fritz” Niland is buried at Fort Richardson National Cemetery, Alaska.
Upon returning to his unit, Father Francis Sampson informed Fritz Niland that a third brother was killed by the enemy. Technical Sergeant Edward Niland, who had been imprisoned by the Japanese in the China-India-Burma theater was considered killed in action. Fritz Niland was now the sole surviving son of his family. The Army decided to send him home as soon as possible. His mother had received all three War Department telegrams on the same day. No platoon was sent to take him home, instead, Father Samson escorted Niland to Utah Beach, where he was flown home to complete his service stateside.
Luckily, Edward Niland wasn’t actually dead. He’d been held prisoner by the Japanese after being shot down in May 1944. He was held for over a year before being liberated in 1945. Word had not yet come to the European theater when Fritz found out about his brothers. The two surviving brothers actually moved to their native Tonawanda, N.Y. when they left the Army, and Edward actually outlived Fritz by a full year. Edward died in 1984, while Fritz passed in 1983.
Robert and Preston are buried side-by-side at the American Cemetery near Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.
A group of Microsoft employees are demanding that the company’s leadership abandon a contract with the US Army that they say makes them into “war profiteers” — a contract that relates to Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented-reality technology.
On Feb. 22, 2019, a group of workers at the Redmond, Washington-based tech giant released an open letter in which they slammed a $749 million contract the company holds to develop an “Integrated Visual Augmentation System” (IVAS) to build “a single platform that Soldiers can use to Fight, Rehearse, and Train that provides increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness necessary to achieve overmatch against our current and future adversaries.”
“We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used,” the letter reads. “As employees and shareholders we do not want to become war profiteers. To that end, we believe that Microsoft must stop in its activities to empower the U.S. Army’s ability to cause harm and violence.”
Fifty employees have signed the letter so far, and organizers say that number is expected to grow.
The organized action comes just days before Microsoft is widely expected to unveil a new HoloLens headset at the Mobile World Congress technology conference in Europe and is a sign of the rising tide of labor activism in the American technology industry.
(Flickr photo by Franklin Heijnen)
“We are going public with the demand to cancel the Hololens DoD contract because we want our voices to be heard on this life or death matter,” a Microsoft worker who asked to remain anonymous told Business Insider. “We haven’t heard back from Microsoft officially, or from any execs at this point — we’re hoping this open letter will help get us a response.”
In June 2018, Google canceled a US military contract after internal uproar. Amazon has also faced protests over military contracts, though CEO Jeff Bezos has said the company has no plans to end them — even implicitly rebuking Google for its actions as unpatriotic. “If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the US Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” Bezos said in October 2018.
The same anonymous Microsoft worker challenged this argument, saying: “Jeff Bezos and other tech execs reap massive profits from military contracts. Patriotism is just a front. If we look at who benefits, it is certainly not the individual engineers working at these companies.”
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
In a statement, Microsoft spokesperson Liz Reisen said: “We gave this issue careful consideration and outlined our perspective in an October 2018 blog. We always appreciate feedback from employees and provide many avenues for their voices to be heard. In fact, we heard from many employees throughout the fall. As we said then, we’re committed to providing our technology to the U.S. Department of Defense, which includes the U.S. Army under this contract. As we’ve also said, we’ll remain engaged as an active corporate citizen in addressing the important ethical and public policy issues relating to AI and the military.”
Here’s the full letter:
“Dear Satya Nadella and Brad Smith,
“We are a global coalition of Microsoft workers, and we refuse to create technology for warfare and oppression. We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. Military, helping one country’s government ‘increase lethality’ using tools we built. We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.
“In November, Microsoft was awarded the 9 million Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) contract with the United States Department of the Army. The contract’s stated objective is to ‘rapidly develop, test, and manufacture a single platform that Soldiers can use to Fight, Rehearse, and Train that provides increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness necessary to achieve overmatch against our current and future adversaries.’ Microsoft intends to apply its HoloLens augmented reality technology to this purpose. While the company has previously licensed tech to the U.S. Military, it has never crossed the line into weapons development. With this contract, it does. The application of HoloLens within the IVAS system is designed to help people kill. It will be deployed on the battlefield, and works by turning warfare into a simulated ‘video game,’ further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed.
“Intent to harm is not an acceptable use of our technology.
“We demand that Microsoft:
“1) Cancel the IVAS contract;
“2) Cease developing any and all weapons technologies, and draft a public-facing acceptable use policy clarifying this commitment;
“3) Appoint an independent, external ethics review board with the power to enforce and publicly validate compliance with its acceptable use policy.
“Although a review process exists for ethics in AI, AETHER, it is opaque to Microsoft workers, and clearly not robust enough to prevent weapons development, as the IVAS contract demonstrates. Without such a policy, Microsoft fails to inform its engineers on the intent of the software they are building. Such a policy would also enable workers and the public to hold Microsoft accountable.
“Brad Smith’s suggestion that employees concerned about working on unethical projects ‘would be allowed to move to other work within the company’ ignores the problem that workers are not properly informed of the use of their work. There are many engineers who contributed to HoloLens before this contract even existed, believing it would be used to help architects and engineers build buildings and cars, to help teach people how to perform surgery or play the piano, to push the boundaries of gaming, and to connect with the Mars Rover (RIP). These engineers have now lost their ability to make decisions about what they work on, instead finding themselves implicated as war profiteers.
“Microsoft’s guidelines on accessibility and security go above and beyond because we care about our customers. We ask for the same approach to a policy on ethics and acceptable use of our technology. Making our products accessible to all audiences has required us to be proactive and unwavering about inclusion. If we don’t make the same commitment to be ethical, we won’t be. We must design against abuse and the potential to cause violence and harm.
“Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and organization on the planet to do more. But implicit in that statement, we believe it is also Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to do good. We also need to be mindful of who we’re empowering and what we’re empowering them to do. Extending this core mission to encompass warfare and disempower Microsoft employees, is disingenuous, as ‘every person’ also means empowering us. As employees and shareholders we do not want to become war profiteers. To that end, we believe that Microsoft must stop in its activities to empower the U.S. Army’s ability to cause harm and violence.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
One of the biggest threats North Korea poses is not measured in a few nukes on a few dozen ballistic missiles. We get it that nukes can do a lot of bad stuff, and the consequences of their use can be downright horrific. But they aren’t the only game in town.
In fact, one of North Korea’s deadliest threats are regular old howitzers.
To be honest, we’re talking lots and lots of howitzers. A veritable horde of howitzers, in fact. Try close to 8,000, according to GlobalSecurity.org. However, South Korea has not been idle in the howitzer field.
According to Hanwha Defense Systems, the South Korean military has been using the K9 self-propelled howitzer. This vehicle carries a 155mm howitzer that has a range of about 25 miles that can fire up to eight rounds a minute, including a burst of three rounds in 15 seconds.
But the firepower isn’t all this is about. The K9 is also able to scoot – able to dash at just under 42 miles per hour and go as far as 223 miles on one tank of gas. The crew of five is able to start shooting within 30 seconds, and they have 48 rounds on board. The vehicle can be quickly resupplied by the K10 Ammunition Resupply Vehicle, which can reload the K9 in just under 18 minutes.
It can take punishment, too. Its armor protects the crew from 14.5mm machine gun fire and fragments from 152mm artillery shells. According to GlobalSecurity.org, over 1,100 of these self-propelled guns are in South Korean service.
The K9 has also secured an export buyer in Turkey, which is acquiring 300 of these guns. In short, this gun will potentially see action on both sides of the continent of Asia.
When Japanese President Shinzo Abe addressed a packed audience at the Eastern Economic Forum in September 2018, held in the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok, he had a direct message for his host.
He appealed to Vladimir Putin, like he does every time the two leaders meet, to help expedite the signing of a treaty that would formally, and finally, end World War II.
A little later, Putin turned animatedly to Abe. “You won’t believe it, but honestly, it’s a simple thought, but it came to my mind just now, right here,” he said. “Let’s sign a peace agreement by the end of the year,” he told Abe, “without any preconditions.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese President Shinzo Abe.
The room erupted in applause, and Russian state media hailed the offer as a breakthrough. “This is a sensation,” gushed a Rossia-24 presenter covering the event. “Unbelievable progress has been reached.”
But as Putin and Abe prepare for talks in Moscow on Jan. 22, 2019, a territorial dispute that has remained unresolved since the war continues to stall efforts toward a Russo-Japanese peace deal, and analysts say there is little indication the latest round of negotiations will change that.
‘Inherent part of Japan’
For the past 70 years, Japan has waged a dogged diplomatic campaign to reclaim what it calls its Northern Territories, a handful of islands off the coast of Hokkaido, its northernmost prefecture, that the Soviet Union captured in the final days of World War II.
Today they are referred to by Moscow as the Southern Kuriles, an extension of the archipelago that extends southward from Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.
Japan established sovereignty over the islands in dispute — Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan, and a group of islets known as Habomai — in an agreement with the Russian Empire in 1855. They are still considered by Tokyo to be an “inherent part of the territory of Japan.”
“There’s a historical and ancestral aspect to this discussion from the Japanese standpoint,” says Stephen R. Nagy, an associate professor with the department of politics and international studies at International Christian University in Tokyo. “Many feel they have left the lands of their ancestors.”
For Russia, the Kuriles provide its naval fleet with access to the Pacific, and serve as a symbol of the Soviet role in the World War II victory.
Following the war, the two countries failed to sign a peace treaty, although the Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration of October 1956 formally ended hostilities and opened diplomatic relations between the two sides. The declaration also annulled previous Soviet claims of war reparations against Japan and provided for two of the disputed territories — Habomai and Shikotan — to be returned to Japan following the conclusion of a formal peace treaty.
When Putin and Abe followed up on their Vladivostok meeting with talks in November 2018 in Singapore, they agreed to use the 1956 agreement as a foundation for further discussion. But that leaves Putin’s offer of “no preconditions” in question.
What comes first?
After talks in Moscow in January 2019 between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, Moscow made clear that Japan must accept Russian sovereignty of the disputed territories before any peace treaty is signed. “Questions of sovereignty over the islands are not being discussed. It is the Russian Federation’s territory,” Lavrov was quoted as saying.
And there have been key developments since 1956: namely, the deepening of the U.S.-Japanese alliance, and more recently the decision to station a U.S. missile-defense system on Japanese territory. The Japanese press has reported that Abe assured Putin no U.S. bases would be built on the islands once under Japanese possession, a fear that Russia has voiced many times. But Japan’s partnership with the United States remains a sticking point.
Artyom Lukin, an international-studies expert at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, says there is little reason to believe a treaty will be hammered out immediately.
“I don’t think that anything substantive, anything which could be pronounced publicly, will come out of this meeting,” Lukin says of the Jan. 22, 2019 talks. “They may make a tentative, preliminary agreement, but because the issue is so complex they’ll need more high-level meetings before the issue is settled. My guess is that we’ll see no public announcement until Putin’s planned visit to Japan in June.”
Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia In Global Affairs, says that Putin’s statement in Vladivostok was blown out of proportion. In fact, Lukyanov argues, the Russian president was just reiterating a long-held stance.
“The Japanese position is the territorial issue first, and then, after having settled that, we can discuss the peace treaty,” Lukyanov says. “And the Russian position, strongly supported by Putin in that speech, is just the opposite — first normalize the relationship and then maybe we can discuss this issue.”
Lukin agrees. “I wouldn’t read too much into Putin’s statement in Vladivostok,” he says. “I think we should pay much more attention to Abe’s statement in Singapore, when he said that Japan was ready to negotiate on the basis of the 1956 declaration. For me this basically means that Japan is ready to accept the fact that it can’t get from Russia anything more than Habomai and Shikotan. So the question is, how much and what will Russia demand from Japan in exchange for those two islands.”
Generosity not popular
At a press briefing in Tokyo following Putin’s appearance with Abe in Vladivostok in September 2018, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga insisted that Japan’s position remained that “the Northern Territories issue is resolved before any peace treaty.” But few expect Russia to yield.
An opinion survey carried out in November 2018 by the independent pollster Levada Center found that only 17 percent of Russians support the handover of the disputed territories to Japan in exchange for a peace deal to end World War II. Almost three-quarters were against the idea.
Russian Protesters Decry Possible Territory Handover To Japan
Russian state media has helped keep those numbers up. On Jan. 13, 2019, flagship news program Vesti Nedeli dismissed the Japanese suggestion that the islands be returned before a treaty is ratified.
“We have the hypersonic Avangard rocket, we have the hypersonic Kinzhal,” host Dmitry Kiselyov said, referring to two nuclear-capable weapons ceremoniously unveiled by Putin during his state-of-the-nation address in March 2019. “We don’t need anything from Japan…. And how can we politely explain that one should behave politely?”
In November 2019, the independent Russian daily Vedomosti wrote in an editorial that “much time has been lost” in settling the Kuriles question. “The Kremlin has succeeded in reviving imperialist passions,” it wrote. “Any territorial concession after the annexation of Crimea will damage Putin’s image as a gatherer of Russian lands, and will raise the level of discontent among his traditional support base.”
Lukyanov says that Putin is aware of Russian public opinion and unlikely to advance such a controversial cause at a time when his approval ratings are already slipping.
“Any territorial concession in any country is a very unpopular move, and to make it, a leadership should be in a strong position,” he says. “Theoretically, I can imagine that something like this would be doable immediately after the Crimean takeover five years ago, but now the situation is different, and the whole atmosphere in the country is much less optimistic, because of economic and other problems. And in this situation, to give such a juicy piece to opponents, to accuse Putin of unpopular territorial concessions, that’s certainly not what he needs right now.”
In recent weeks, several rallies have been held across Russia to protest the possible handover of the islands. On Jan. 20, 2019, some 300 nationalists and members of the Russian far right gathered in central Moscow, chanting slogans including “Crimea is ours! The Kuriles are ours!” and “We won’t return the Kuriles!”
In its bid for a diplomatic breakthrough, the Japanese leadership has suggested that Russia’s cession of the islands would open up trade with its Asian neighbor at a time of debilitating Western sanctions. But Lukyanov describes as a “primitive interpretation” the notion that Russia might relinquish the Kuriles because it needs Japan for its economic development.
“Russia’s real calculation is much more geostrategic,” he says. “Because Russia’s drift toward Asia is inevitable and will continue, because the whole of international politics is shifting to the East, and to Asia.”
The Russian leadership is aware of the risk of becoming overly dependent on China, he adds.
“For Russia, strategically it’s much more important to have a stable and constructive relationship with the big powers in Asia — South Korea, Japan, India, and Indonesia — all those that might play a role as counterweights to China. And this, to me, is the only reason why the whole discussion [about the Kuriles] is still going on.”
The joke came on Aug. 11, 1984. Reagan was in the middle of a re-election campaign, and so he had a big announcement planned for his weekly radio address to America. He was going to be at his ranch in California, and so he asked National Public Radio engineers to do the address from there. They agreed.
But they weren’t the only ones who had heard the remarks. The audio was already being sent to some of the radio stations that would broadcast the remarks, and those stations were recording the feed in case they missed the start of the presidential address.
And not all of them were part of the agreement to hold recordings not meant for broadcast. Someone leaked the audio.
Most of the world got that it was a joke and the punditry class took on its typical role of either condemning or praising the remarks. Most condemned, especially in those countries in Europe that Russia’s missiles could reach. The Soviet Union was also predictably, not a fan.
But one group of Soviet soldiers weren’t entirely sure that it was a joke. There were reports of a low-level Soviet commander putting his troops in Vladivostok on a wartime footing on August 13, in the belief that America really was going to war with the Soviet Union.